Businesses welcome ‘Super Saturday’ in Barking and Dagenham

Pubs, restaurants and barbershops were among the businesses reopening in Barking and Dagenham as loc

Pubs, restaurants and barbershops were among the businesses reopening in Barking and Dagenham as lockdown restrictions were eased further on 'Super Saturday' July 4. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Pubs, restaurants and bars welcomed back customers for the first time in months on “Super Saturday”.

MyLahore in Barking offered food boxes during the height of the pandemic. Picture: MyLahore

MyLahore in Barking offered food boxes during the height of the pandemic. Picture: MyLahore - Credit: Archant

Watering holes, eateries and hairdresser’s across Barking and Dagenham reopened their doors as coronavirus lockdown restrictions continued to ease in England from Saturday, July 4.

But the easing has seen some changes to how things were done before the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to close in March.

On the day, Cheryl Stephenson, shift leader at The Pipe Major in Yew Tree Avenue, Dagenham, said: “It was very different, especially with social distancing, but it went really well.”

As with venues across England, the pub has brought in a number of changes including table service, stopping people from standing at the bar and providing hand sanitiser. Furloughed staff have returned to work as well.

“It’s going well,” Cheryl said.

For Ishfaq Farooq, operations director at MyLahore in Jenkins Lane, Barking, reported 60 per cent of the British Asian restaurant’s customer numbers coming through the doors on Saturday compared to before the pandemic.

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“The guys that came in were really impressed with the social distancing measures. It’s great to be back and have guests coming through the door. It’s been a challenging few months,” Ishfaq said.

These include hand sanitising on the way in, condiments in sachets and menus sent to mobile phones via a quick response (QR) code.

Ishfaq explained that the restaurant, which forms part of a chain with branches in cities including Manchester, Leeds and Bradford, only opened a few weeks before lockdown.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited My Lahore’s Braford branch during a visit to the city on January 16.

Being forced to close because of the virus not long after launching, combined with still having to pay for overheads, rent and equipment, made things tough for the branch.

“We were affected massively. Because the site is not that established yet, it was harder,” Ishfaq explained.

He estimated the business lost about £100,000 as a result of the closure, adding that the government rejected MyLahore’s application for help from the furlough scheme.

Instead, the firm’s owners paid the wages out of their own pockets for the first few pay rolls for the Barking branch workers, Ishfaq said.

He added that in spite of the difficulties, MyLahore’s branches still managed to deliver 16,000 meals to needy people in the areas where its restaurants are based.

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Darren Rodwell said in a social media post on Friday, July 3 that the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the borough are very low at 703, compared to 928 in Havering and 1.095 in Redbridge.

The figures now combine reports from hospitals, care homes and from the test and trace system.

“The numbers are very low and there is no reason to panic about the situation. Stay calm and stay safe,” Cllr Rodwell said.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday’s easing of lockdown measures in June.

Two households will now be able to meet up in any setting as long as social distancing measures are observed. People can now enjoy holidays in England with the reopening of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs.

Hairdresser’s, outdoor gyms, playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres can also reopen.

Weddings and civil partnerships can also go ahead, but numbers have been limited to 30 people, including the couple, witnesses and staff.

Venues deemed to involve “close proximity”, including nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas have to stay closed.

A government spokesperson said: “While the infection rate continues to fall, the prime minister has been clear that the public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines to keep coronavirus under control.

“The government will keep all measures under constant review and will not hesitate to apply the handbrake, or reverse measures, should the virus begin to run out of control.”